Stranded mariners rescued after making 'HELP' sign with leaves

Three mariners were rescued after being stranded on Pikelot Atoll, Yap State, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), for more than a week, due to the coordination of U.S. Coast Guard forces Micronesia/sector Guam and the U.S. navy, on April 9.

The mariners spelled out “HELP” on the beach using palm leaves, a crucial factor in their discovery.

This act of ingenuity was pivotal in guiding rescue efforts directly to their location, the U.S. Coast Guard announced in a press release.

The unnamed three mariners, all men in their 40s, reportedly embarked on their voyage from Polowat Atoll Easter Sunday in a small 20-foot open skiff equipped with an outboard motor and experience in navigating these waters.

The search and rescue mission began on April 6 when a relative of the sailors called the Joint Rescue Sub-Center (JRSC) Guam, reporting the men had not returned from Pikelot Atoll.

The U.S. Coast Guard says a “breakthrough” in the rescue efforts came the next day, when the U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft identified the three mariners on April 7 on Pikelot Atoll, confirming their presence and condition.

A pivotal moment in the rescue operation came on April 8, when a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft crew was able to relocate the mariners, dropping a radio to establish communication.

“The mariners confirmed they were in good health, had access to food and water, and recovered their skiff, which unfortunately sustained damage, rendering it and its outboard engine non-functional. They expressed a desire for assistance in returning to Polowat,” according to the release.

The aircraft crew successfully deployed survival packages to sustain the mariners until further assistance could arrive. USCGC Oliver Henry was rerouted to Pikelot Atoll to conduct the rescue operation.

Officials said the USCGC Oliver Henry rendezvoused with the mariners on Pikelot Atoll on the morning of April 9.

“The ship successfully rescued the mariners and their equipment and returned them to Polowat Atoll,” as it was furthermore stated.